By the time her daughter landed in drug rehab at age 16, Leslie Cheney had grown used to all kinds of reactions to her wild child from family and friends, teachers and neighbors. But she wasn't ready for how differently people treated her. Suddenly she was confronted with unwanted counsel ("She needs more discipline") and Pollyanna predictions ("It's just a phase -- it'll pass before you know it"). On one level, Leslie, a mother of four in Fairfield, Connecticut, understood.
"It was pretty clear that people didn't really know what to say or do," she says. "And instead of asking me how they could help, they offered advice that didn't help at all." But Leslie found little comfort giving others the benefit of the doubt. In addition to being terrified for her daughter, she also felt cut off and alone at a time when she most needed support.
It's no surprise that adolescence can be a very rough passage -- for kids as well as their parents. Whether they're struggling with school, relationships, psychological disorders or substance abuse, "the problems today's tweens and teens face are enormous," says Rhonda David, clinical director of A Light of Hope, an outpatient treatment center in Santa Clarita, California. "And there are so many parents out there feeling like it's somehow their fault. They need support like never before." If you know someone in need, of course you'll want to lend a hand -- and be there in all the ways that matter.